Are you experiencing thyroid-related hair loss? You’re not alone. As if dealing with a thyroid issue weren’t stressful enough on its own, many people living with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism also experience hair loss.
Before we dive deeper into how to manage the issue, let’s take a look at the basics of the thyroid.
What The Thyroid Does
The thyroid gland sits at the base of your neck and is part of the endocrine system. Your thyroid creates hormones that play a role in your body’s metabolism.
Common Thyroid Issues
When the thyroid works as it’s supposed to, it runs like a well-oiled machine. When it doesn’t, however, it can cause all sorts of issues with regulating your body’s hormones. Thyroid issues fall into two categories: hyperthyroidism, the production of too many hormones, or hypothyroidism, the production of too few hormones.
Grave’s disease occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid, which causes the thyroid to overproduce hormones. Many people with hyperthyroidism have Grave’s disease.
Goiter happens when the thyroid is enlarged. The enlargement is benign, and in many parts of the world, the issue is caused by a lack of iodine in a person’s diet. In the US, most table salt is enriched with iodine. This helps prevent iodine deficiency in lots of Americans, but goiter still occurs in the US as a result of hyperthyroidism.
Hashimoto’s disease is a very common cause of hypothyroidism in the US. With Hashimoto’s, much like with Grave’s, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid – but in this case, the thyroid subsequently struggles to produce hormones.
Like goiter, thyroid nodules can be caused by iodine deficiency. They can also be connected to Hashimoto’s disease, though they sometimes occur with no known cause. While the nodules can occasionally be cancerous, they are usually benign. Some nodules actually create hormones just like the gland itself does, which can lead to hyperthyroidism-like symptoms.
How Thyroid Issues Are Treated
You’ll want to consult a medical professional about your specific case to come up with a treatment plan together, but there are several potential options for treating a thyroid issue.
Many people suffering from thyroid issues try a series of natural options for improving their thyroid. This can include reducing stress, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, getting regular exercise, and making sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. Diet changes, like cutting back on sugar and eating more seaweed vegetables, can also help. You may also find yourself cutting back on other types of food like dairy and gluten.
Depending on your specific situation, your doctor may prescribe medication. For example, many patients with hypothyroidism are treated with synthetic hormones which can help alleviate symptoms. If you and your doctor decide that medication is the right option for you, keep in mind that it can take some trial and error to determine the perfect dose for you – try not to feel discouraged if you don’t see the results you need right away.
How To Talk To A Doctor About Your Thyroid
When it comes to finding a positive solution for your thyroid issue, communication is everything. Your doctor is there to help, but it’s important to be as clear as possible about what your symptoms are and what you want.
Do a bit of research on your own before your appointment so you have a basic idea of treatment options, and be as open as possible about how much your symptoms are impacting your everyday life. When you arrive at the appointment, make sure you ask as many questions as needed about how and when to take any medication prescribed, and take notes. Also make sure to ask about any supplements or medications that may have a negative interaction with your thyroid treatment.
The Connection Between Thyroid And Hair Loss
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s explore the correlation between thyroid issues and hair loss. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to hair loss, especially if you have a particularly severe case or the issue has carried on for a long time. (In fact, it often takes several months after the appearance of a thyroid issue for hair loss to show.)
More mild thyroid cases are less likely to lead to hair loss. Generally, thyroid-related hair loss occurs in equal amounts all over the scalp, as opposed to in specific patches.
The Emotional Impact Of Hair Loss
What people often don’t realize until they experience it themselves is just how emotionally powerful hair loss can be. In most cultures, hair is associated with identity, beauty, and wellbeing. It can be tough to experience a change in that sense of identity, and may even make you feel powerless.
It can help to remember that your hair loss is likely only temporary, and that as upsetting as it might be, you can work with hair stylists to develop your own signature style that makes you feel most comfortable. Be kind with yourself as you adjust to this big change your everyday life.
How To Reverse Thyroid Related Hair Loss
Here are the steps you can take to get back to the hair you want.
1. Successfully treat your thyroid disorder
Getting to the root cause of the issue, your thyroid disorder, is one of the most straightforward ways to reverse the hair loss. The downside of this is that it can take several months for hair loss to reverse from successful treatment, so you’ll need to keep that in mind as you start to heal.
Hair has a slow growth cycle, so thyroid related hair loss itself may take time to set in to begin with – in fact, it might not even show up until you’ve caught onto the thyroid problems and begun getting treatment. When this happens, you might assume that your treatment is causing the hair loss. Remain patient, and don’t quit your treatment based on this assumption. Quitting now could just make the hair loss worse – and could worsen your other thyroid symptoms as well.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D and vitamin B12
Getting enough of these vitamins could help curb your thyroid issues. Increase your vitamin D intake with supplements, foods fortified with the vitamin like milk, and regular exposure to sunlight. (That said, take care to prevent sunburn when you’re out in the sun!) Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 by eating plenty of shellfish, dairy, eggs, and poultry, or taking regular supplements.
3. Aim for anti-inflammatory foods
Foods and ingredients that help fight inflammation are a great option for potential improvement. Anti-inflammatories can help reduce joint pain, swelling, and soreness, or any other ailment linked to inflammation. It can also help improve your body’s immune and hormone functions, which clearly have the potential to make a big on your thyroid function. There are all kinds of anti-inflammatory foods and ingredients at your local grocery store. Some simple ones to start with include with ginger, turmeric, green tea, broccoli, blueberries, and tomatoes.
4. Increase your iron intake
Iron deficiency is an especially common cause of hair loss, particularly for women. Your doctor can run an iron test via bloodwork. Make sure you’re eating of plenty of foods that are rich in iron, like organ meats, turkey, and chicken. If a doctor gives the okay, consider taking iron supplements as well.
5. Consider other causes of hair loss
As previously mentioned, it’s important to remember that it takes time for hair loss to reverse once you begin thyroid treatment. Check in with your doctor and give it as much patience as you can. That said, if your hair loss doesn’t seem to be impacted even after a long period of time, work with a medical professional to consider whether your hair loss is also being impacted by another issue. Hair loss can be caused by—among other things—pregnancy, menopause, scalp infections, family history, radiation therapy, extreme stress, some types of hair treatments, or specific medications. Look into whether one of these issues could be the culprit so you can move forward in treating it.
No Matter What, Don’t Give Up Hope
Hair loss can be incredibly upsetting and frustrating, but it can be resolved. Focus on keeping your spirits high and getting your thyroid back on track. Slowly but surely, you’ll be feeling like your old self—only much, much healthier.